The Mets just dropped a series to the worst team in the National League, have won once this month and have not won consecutive games in almost a month. Their hitting and pitching rate as below-average. They have gone 7-16 since their 11-1 start and have slipped to fourth place in the NL East.
Taking the season as a whole — the great start and bad everything since — the Mets look like a mediocre team.
But don’t expect a significant change in personnel or philosophy after a few bad weeks. That’s especially true of Mickey Callaway, who has preached calm and reason through the extreme highs and lows in the opening weeks of his first season as a manager.
“If I were in here getting angry and yelling at people, that would not be productive,” he said. “We’re going to continue to work as hard as we possibly can every day to get better and better, because we need to get better.
“If we didn’t prepare the right way, if we didn’t do everything we can to go out there and try to win a game, that’s when guys get frustrated. I don’t feel like that’s been the case. We just haven’t been on the winning side of things lately.”
The Mets aren’t necessarily doing nothing. Callaway said he met with the coaching staff Wednesday morning, before a Mets loss that began with them batting out of order, to re-evaluate how the team prepares each day.
Callaway didn’t specify what changes, if any, came of the conversation. But just as hitters and pitchers speak of constant adjustments during a long season, the same is true of the coaches, who wanted “to see if we can improve upon what we’ve been doing,” he said.
During this stretch of losing games (and players to injury), Callaway has talked frequently about staying the course, even if he doesn’t have answers.
It’s difficult to explain, for example, why the offense burst out Monday for seven runs in a hitter-friendly ballpark against the worst-pitching team in baseball, only to score a combined three runs in the ensuing two games.
Callaway said he is not seeing anything different in his hitters’ approaches or the quality of their at-bats. “That’s the frustrating part,” he said. “We dig and dig and dig and try to figure out what’s going on exactly, and sometimes there’s not an answer.”
The surface-level reasons for the team-wide slump are obvious and well-rounded.
Through April 13, the last day of the Mets’ nine-game winning streak that brought them to 11-1, they averaged 5.1 runs per game and batted .266 with runners in scoring position, with a 3.32 ERA from their starters and a 1.57 ERA from their relievers. They did pretty much everything well.
Since then, they have averaged 3.8 runs per game with a .220 average with runners in scoring position, plus a 5.02 ERA from their starters and a 5.28 ERA from their relievers. They have done pretty much nothing well.
“We just got to pick up the intensity a little bit and play every day,” Zack Wheeler said. “I’m not saying that we aren’t, but it’s this mindset we have to have. We have to start winning some ballgames.”
Said Wilmer Flores: “There’s no reason to play this bad.”
Baseball has a funny way of making people forget about the past, even the recent past. A few more bad weeks, and you’ll hear whispers about whether the Mets should be sellers. And if they get hot again, this spring slump will be just a spring slump.
Callaway cited his experience last year as the Indians’ pitching coach as a relatable one. Cleveland’s starters had the worst ERA in the league in April. They were better than that, of course, and he was dumbfounded. By the end of the year, the Indians’ pitchers had one of the best seasons baseball has ever seen.
Jay Bruce, who will miss the weekend series in Philadelphia while on the paternity list, saw the back end of that run by Cleveland after the Mets traded him to the Indians. And he’s not worried about these Mets.
“It’s a baseball season. It’s long and it’s never easy,” Bruce said. “It’s one of those deals where we just have to keep working and give ourselves the opportunity to make it happen. There’s no magic potion or anything like that that’s going to make it come.”
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